Hutspot interview

Article by Hutspot - April 16, 2019 

StigerWoods is a product by Amsterdam based artist Martijn Smulders, who is transferring pictures onto scaffolding wood for over six years. Debuting the iconic fish collection at Hutspot, the wooden artworks have become a stylish and original addition to any interior. We visited Martijn in his Amsterdam studio to discuss the original idea, design process, and its never-ending appeal.

StigerWoods was inspired after stumbling upon a similar printing technique in Bangkok. What was it that caught your attention?
I discovered these subtle landscape pictures on wood and was intrigued by their handcrafted aesthetic. I liked how the qualities of the wood were still visible through the image. After I returned home, I started experimenting with the technique and took the time to make it my own.

You have a background in fine art. Did your style change throughout the years?
Of course! I was making a lot of different things during my study such as pop art inspired 3D statues. However, I have always been interested in making art accessible. The word ‘art’ can have very heavy connotations and I have always been exploring ways to make my creations understandable. People could call my work commercial. I prefer to call it accessible art.  

People mostly recognize StigerWoods by the imagery of exotic fish. Why did you decide to head into this direction?
I collaborated with photographer Aico Lind who is a long-time friend of mine. After flicking through his database, I was intrigued by a beautiful image of two mackerels. There are a lot of connotations between fish and the material such as the watery epoxy coating. It also reminded me of the Portugese hand-painted tiles that you find in lots of tapas bars. The connection just felt right.

We collaborated with a sustainable fish trade company and photographed the most exotic selection of fish. In Photoshop, we increased the saturation to reveal the most beautiful colors. It really makes a huge difference.

What do you think people find attractive about StigerWoods?
I think accessibility and authenticity are key. First of all, the price is reasonable when you consider the amount of work that goes into every product. People can mix and match and experiment in size. Furthermore, you can very easily visualize it in any interior.

Let’s go over the design process. What does it take to create a StigerWoods tile?
Recycled scaffolding wood is the most beautiful base material. The wood is used in a lot of different industries and is often touched by weather, paint or cement. This gives a lot of character to the wood and an edge to the final product. I soften the edges and apply a base of white paint to make the image come out better. Then, I print the image on transfers which are printed on the tiles afterward. The ink is absorbed by the wood which makes the qualities of the wood shine through the image. Remarkably, there is barely any color loss.

The most difficult part is a technique that I call ‘rullen’. Here, I remove the transfer from the wood which involves a lot of tough hand work. Every tile is finished with a layer of epoxy, which needs to dry and is difficult to make even. The coating is sensitive to a lot of different things such as warmth, dust, and hairs. However, the end result makes all the hard work very rewarding.

How does it feel to see StigerWoods hang in someone else their home?
I love it when people send me photos of their interior. Their enthusiasm stimulates and inspires me. Sometimes, people ask me for advice when they want to make a collage of multiple objects.

Today, we also see vegetables and more illustrative art make its way onto StigerWoods. How do you know what works and what doesn’t?
It all comes down to experimentation. I have visited trading companies to get inspired by lots of different products. For example, we zoomed in on dried herbs in ‘The Green Collection’ which proved to work well because of their calm aesthetic and connection to nature. I am currently experimenting with lots of new visual ideas. Stay tuned!